- Apple ARKit: augmented reality on iPhone, the start of a revolution
- Google Glass, Microsoft Hololens: why AR glasses are not yet mainstream?
- Apple believes augmented reality will become as popular as the iPhone
- The evidence that Apple is preparing AR glasses
- Apple AR design: what will augmented reality glasses look like?
- Taeyeon Kim's concept of augmented reality glasses inspired by Snapchat?
- Stylish Apple glasses but not incorporating the necessary electronics
- Apple AR technical sheet: what will be the characteristics and performance of Apple Glass?
- Apple AR: an augmented reality headset drawing its power from the iPhone?
- Apple AR: virtual AND augmented reality glasses?
- Apple AR: release date of augmented reality glasses
- Apple AR: price of augmented reality glasses
Augmented reality is a technology that makes it possible to couple the real to the virtual, or more precisely to “augment” the real world using virtual elements. The virtual images are superimposed on real world images. It can be text, numbers, or more complex three-dimensional elements such as characters or objects.
Apple ARKit: augmented reality on iPhone, the start of a revolution
This mixture of real and virtual can be seen using a screen. Currently, the main way to access augmented reality is smartphone screen. In 2017, Apple released its ARKit SDK for iOS, and Google launched its ARCore SDK for Android. These two platforms allow developers to create augmented reality applications for Android smartphones or iPhones.
Concretely, the applications created with these development kits allow the user to observe virtual elements superimposed on the real world images filmed by the camera of his smartphone. We already has a large number of mobile applications created with ARCore and ARKit.
For example, it is possible to use a virtual ruler to measure real-world objects, or to witness the landing of a UFO in your garden. Augmented reality gives free rein to the imagination of developers, and can help create both practical applications and games having no other purpose than entertainment.
ARKit regroupe a set of APIs for creating AR applications for iPhone and iPad. The platform offers features for motion tracking, and estimation of ambient light, proportions and height difference. This is what allows the virtual elements to be realistically integrated into the environment according to the context. Obviously, the CPU, GPU, camera and smartphone movement sensors are called upon to operate applications in AR.
One of the best-known augmented reality mobile applications is of course Pokémon Go. This game, which met with phenomenal success in the summer of 2016, allows the user to see Pokémon appear in their real environment. We can also cite the famous Snapchat filters, which allow users of the social network to make up themselves using various virtual masks.
Google Glass, Microsoft Hololens: why AR glasses are not yet mainstream?
However, and while ARkit and ARCore have made it easier to develop AR mobile applications, the augmented reality for smartphones is just the beginning. Holding your phone in your hand to watch virtual images superimposed on reality is not a very immersive experience, and is unlikely to make the user forget the border between the real and the imaginary.
Augmented reality takes on its full meaning when viewed through the screen of a helmet, glasses or contact lenses. Currently, there are already several devices of this type on the market. Google was the first to venture into this field with Google Glass, released in 2013 for the price of $ 1500. Unfortunately, these augmented reality glasses weren't complete enough to convince the general public. In 2017, Google decided to return to the market with the Google Glass Enterprise Edition, this time aimed at professionals.
The first truly successful virtual reality headset launched on the market is the Microsoft Hololens. This headset brings together a wide selection of games and applications in augmented reality, and allows you to observe the virtual merge into the real in a very convincing way.
However, one factor slows down its democratization among the general public: its price of 3000 euros. This is again an AR headset reserved for professionals. This is also the case with the HoloLens 2 launched in February 2019.
In August 2018, Magic Leap launched its Magic Leap One augmented reality glasses which offer more fun and entertainment-related applications. However, the lack of apps and a price of 2300 dollars deter most consumers from investing in this device.
Likewise, Intel recently announced Intel Vaunt, augmented reality glasses with a design close to a pair of ordinary glasses. However, the real democratization of augmented reality could come from a company beloved by the general public around the world: Apple.
Apple believes augmented reality will become as popular as the iPhone
Apple CEO Tim Cook has never concealed his interest in augmented reality. According to him, this technology is much more interesting than virtual reality and opens up new perspectives for humanity. The business leader went so far as to predict that augmented reality would one day become “as common as eating three meals a day”. In 2016, Cook thus affirmed during Utah Tech that all countries will end up using augmented reality on a daily basis.
Steve Jobs' successor recognizes, however, that the augmented reality will take time to become more democratic, especially because of the technological challenges to be overcome. However, he is confident that this technology will eventually take as important as smartphones in our modern societies and will change the way we use technology.
In November 2018, as part of a documentary aired on HBO, Tim Cook spoke again about augmented reality. According to him, this technology is so revolutionary that "we will soon no longer be able to live without augmented reality" ...
The evidence that Apple is preparing AR glasses
Faced with Apple's enthusiasm for augmented reality, we can deduce thatARKit is really just a way to pave the way for future augmented reality glasses. After all, if it is possible to use a smartphone to superimpose the virtual on the real, in theory nothing prevents doing the same with glasses. The only constraint is to manage to integrate the components of the smartphone in a pair of glasses. Thus, all the AR applications created with ARKit could be directly transposed to Apple's augmented reality glasses.
There is also several evidence, or at least several clues, that Apple is actively developing augmented reality glasses. In early 2017, UBS analysts revealed that more than 1000 Apple engineers secretly work in Israel on an augmented reality project. Internally, this team has the code name T288.
Similarly, Apple has been increasing acquisitions of startups for several years now related to augmented reality. These include the expert in 3D capture PrimeSense and the specialist in facial recognition RealFace.
All of this startups helped Apple develop its 3D facial recognition technology Face ID for the iPhone X, but they're likely to collaborate on Apple's future AR glasses as well. In August 2017, Apple also reportedly bought the startup Vrvana, which develops the Totem mixed reality headset, for $ 30 million. The company also bought the startups SMI, Flyby Media, metaio, Emotient and Faceshift, all linked directly or indirectly to augmented reality.
Likewise, Apple does not hesitate to recruit the best talents in augmented reality from all over the world. According to Bloomberg, the Apple notably debauched Jeff Norris, founder of NASA's Mission Operations Innovation Office. The latter would be part of the team working on Apple Glass, supervised by Mike Rockwell of Dolby Labs.
The Cupertino company also filed a large number of patents related to virtual reality or augmented reality, and in particular a helmet. Another patent filed in June 2017 describes how a depth sensing 3D camera, relying on a beam of light for 3D optical mapping, could be used for tracking the user's hands in augmented reality games.
In April 2017, two Apple employees suffered eye injuries while using a prototype. There is no indication that this was a prototype of the glasses, but it seems more than likely.
In February 2019, for the first time, Apple appointed an executive for augmented reality. This is Frank Casanova, who until then held the role of senior director of iPhone partner marketing since 2007 (after 20 years of work in other positions within the company). From now on, he occupies the role of marketing director for augmented reality.
So, he seems obvious that the Apple is indeed developing Apple AR glasses. It remains to be seen what these glasses will look like, when they will be marketed, and especially at what price.
Apple AR design: what will augmented reality glasses look like?
It is difficult for now to predict what the Apple AR augmented reality glasses will look like, knowing that no concrete leak around this product has taken place. We can however suspect that this product will use the design codes other devices of the brand.
Aesthetics should therefore be refined, elegant, and rather sober. While waiting for a possible leak, here is two video concepts which offer a nice overview of what Apple Glass could look like. The first dates from 2014, while the second has just been put online in February 2018.
More recently, Taeyeon Kim, a South Korean designer, presented a concept of Apple's augmented reality glasses. Note that this is really a concept and that the look has been privileged to the detriment of the functionality. It's hard to imagine all the electronics on board these stylish glasses. The glasses presented are however quite close to the elegant and refined style that characterizes the apple brand.
Taeyeon Kim's concept of augmented reality glasses inspired by Snapchat?
For those familiar with Snapchat's Spectacles glasses, the resemblance is striking at first glance. The shape of the frame and the round glasses are very similar. However, the resemblance ends there. Unlike Spectacles glasses, there are no sensors or cameras integrated into the Korean designer's glasses concept. Asian designer devised a system to make glasses opaque when augmented reality software is launched. A rather curious concept which departs from that of AR.
The principle of augmented reality is precisely to be able to visualize its environment while adding either information or holograms. By making the glasses opaque, the entire user's environment disappears in favor of the virtual images given by the glasses. This therefore brings this concept of AR glasses closer to that of virtual reality glasses.
Stylish Apple glasses but not incorporating the necessary electronics
It seems that Taeyeon Kim has forgotten that augmented reality glasses carry electronics and a battery. Sensors are indeed necessary as well as one or two cameras without forgetting of course everything concerning the optical engine and the power supply.
Particularly interesting, the Korean designer has imagined detachable glasses temples. An idea that has a double advantage. First in terms of fashion. It will thus be easily possible to change the color of the branches to adapt it to your outfit. or the style you want to use at the time. The second advantage, which is not negligible, is that, if for example the battery is integrated in the temples of the glasses, it will be very easy to change the battery when the first one is dead. It is also possible to imagine branches that add functionality to the augmented reality device.
On the boxes of Apple augmented reality glasses, the South Korean designer has bet on sobriety. Like the Apple Watch, only the Apple logo appears with the word Glasses. Glasses and packaging that regulars of the apple brand would not denigrate. Taeyeron Kim has declined his concept in four colors, black, silver, gold and rose metal particularly popular with Apple customers. Colors matched to iPhones.
In conclusion, a concept of glasses very close to what could be an Apple product but which just forgot to integrate all the electronics which could force to adopt a very different design.
Apple AR technical sheet: what will be the characteristics and performance of Apple Glass?
Here again, it is currently difficult to predict the technical characteristics of the Apple AR glasses. One thing is certain: Apple Glass will offer technical characteristics at least equivalent to that of the iPhone 6s. Older iPhones cannot run ARKit apps.
As a reminder, the iPhone 6s has an A9 processor clocked at 1,85 GHz coupled with 2 GB of RAM. However, it is more likely that these AR glasses offer performance similar to that of a last generation iPhone X, with an A11 Bionic processor clocked at 2.39 GHz coupled with 3 GB of RAM. Even a lot more. It is rumored that the Apple Glass will ship a processor created especially for the occasion.
In addition, according to information unveiled by Bloomberg in November 2018, the Apple AR glasses would run under a new OS derived from iOS. Internally, this operating system would carry the nom de code rOS (reality operating system).
Still according to Bloomerg, the Apple AR augmented reality glasses will have their own screen. No question of using the iPhone as a screen, then. A patent recently filed by Apple describes how the screen of Apple's AR glasses might work. The document describes a catadioptric system based on an assembly of mirrors and curved lenses, allowing to combine refraction and reflection. This type of optical system is already used by telescopes and microscopes.
The main advantage of such a device is that it allows reduce the weight of the glasses compared to devices available on the market which multiply the lenses between a screen and the wearer's eyes. This patent therefore seems to confirm that Apple's AR glasses will offer a slim, compact and light design.
Several prototypes are reportedly being tested, and the Apple engineers would use HTC Vive headsets to test the limits and potential of augmented reality. Internally, the teams would test different types of applications such as messaging, mapping applications or virtual meeting software. Several control methods would also be tested: touch panels, head movements, gesture commands, but also l’assistant vocal Siri.
Apple AR: an augmented reality headset drawing its power from the iPhone?
In early March 2019, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo made new revelations about Apple's future AR headset. According to him, these augmented reality glasses will rely heavily on the iPhone.
Le smartphone will take care of the calculation, rendering, internet connection, while the headset will only serve as a screen.
It will therefore be a “Cardboard” for augmented reality. However, the smartphone will be connected by a cable (or by a wireless connection). There will therefore be no need to insert the smartphone into a slot in the front of the helmet, since the device will have its own screen.
We could therefore rather compare it to Magic Leap One, which works the same. Indeed, the ML1 is connected to a circular computer that the user wears on his belt.
Apple AR: virtual AND augmented reality glasses?
A patent recently unveiled by Apple and unveiled in early March 2019 describes a headset that could serve both for augmented reality and for virtual reality.
It would be an autonomous helmet, carrying its own screens and electronic components. However, iPhone and iPad could be used as controllers.
With such a device, Apple would therefore catch up by launching simultaneously in the virtual reality and augmented reality market. However, there is no guarantee that this patent will actually materialize in a product launch ...
Apple AR: release date of augmented reality glasses
In October 2017, Tim Cook revealed to the site that the technology to create augmented reality glasses worthy of Apple's quality requirements does not yet exist. The CEO therefore recommended that consumers do not hope to see the Apple AR glasses presented in the near future.
However, in November 2017, Bloomberg revealed that Apple is working hard to speed up the execution of its project. Apple's augmented reality glasses would be presented to the general public in 2019, and marketed in 2020.
In August 2018, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, known for his exact predictions about Apple, confirmed that Apple's AR glasses would launch in 2020. In February 2019, Bloomberg also validated this date again.
In early March 2019, Ming-Chi Kuo reiterated by asserting that mass production should begin between the fourth quarter of 2019 and the second quarter of 2020. We can therefore expect to see the Apple Glass unveiled during the September 2019 keynote.
Apple AR: price of augmented reality glasses
We end this file with the thorny question of price. As you probably know, Apple is far from being a low cost brand. It is therefore no need to hope for an affordable price for this device of a new kind, which will undoubtedly be presented as totally revolutionary.
The Apple Glass will still probably be less expensive than the Hololens (3000 euros), since it will be a device intended for the general public. The product will probably be priced between 1500 and 2000 euros. However, this is only an estimate based on the price of other Apple products and other augmented reality glasses available today.